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Israel calls on EU to stop funding groups promoting "anti-Israel" boycotts

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel accused European Union institutions on Friday of funding non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that promote “anti-Israel boycotts” and called for the support to end.

Issuing a 40-page study, Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy put the scope of such assistance to European and Palestinian groups at 5 million euros in 2016.

It said it based the sum on EU figures for that year, describing them as the latest available.

Israel has long decried groups like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement who want to isolate Israel over policies towards the Palestinians.

The EU delegation in Israel said it had not received any Israeli government communication on the matter but would be happy to review any relevant information received concerning EU-funded activities.

“Money from the EU budget may only be spent for the purpose for which it was contracted, under strict transparency rules and is subject to extensive monitoring requirements,” a statement from the delegation’s office said. 

“We are therefore confident that EU financing does not go to support terrorism nor to BDS activities, as apparently suggested in the report,” it added.

More than a dozen NGOs “which promote anti-Israel boycotts” received the money, “in stark opposition to the EU’s own declared policies rejecting such boycotts”, the Israeli report said.

Several million more euros, the ministry said, were channelled to NGOs through third parties that received EU assistance.

In its descriptions of “anti-Israel delegitimisation”, the report included calls by various NGOs to boycott Israeli and foreign companies over ties with Israeli settlements in occupied territories Palestinians seek for a state.

The European Union, and many countries, regard the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as illegal. Israel disputes this.

The ministry’s report included a call for the EU to “immediately halt funding to organisations which promote anti-Israel boycotts and delegitimisation”.

The study cited a Norwegian NGO and two Palestinian recipients of EU funds as having links with groups considered by the EU, the United States and Israel to be terrorist organisations.

It said Norwegian People’s Aid received 1.76 million euros from the EU in 2016. The group, which also obtained funding from the USAID development agency, was fined $2 million last month by the United States.

Settling a lawsuit with the U.S. Justice Ministry, the NGO acknowledged violating terms of its USAID grant by training representatives of Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as part of a youth leadership project in Gaza.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Additional reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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